Monday, August 29, 2011

On Politics: Compassionate Conservatism

So now that I live in DC, politics is of course front and center in daily life. The upcoming 2012 elections are about to turn this place into a frenzy of finger pointing and jabs and uncomfortable conversations. I was in DC for the 2004 elections, and it wasn't pretty. My own political views have changed over the past few years, and I now wait for the upcoming melee standing on a different side of the fence. But my core beliefs are the same, and I like to think that although I choose one political party (how I long for a viable third party!!), it does not mean that I cannot see the good - and the bad - on both sides of the aisle.

Assuming I don't get too many hateful comments from this post, I hope to continue blogging my observations about this race over the next year...but here is my first tentative tiptoe into the subject, based on an evening of simmering thoughts after reading this article and several other recent articles on compassionate conservatism. What is particularly striking to me is Perry's strong repudiation of this particular brand of republicanism. This was Bush's brand, and I understand Perry's desire to distance himself from that. Perry hopes to make the federal government inconsequential (his words, not mine). Now I am not saying that the current state of the federal government, and its spending in particular, is ideal. Far from it. But it saddens me that the current front-runner for the Republicans (or at least, one of the front-runners), is turning his back on one of the only parts of recent Republican politics that I can stomach. Bush was many things, and there are many things done by his administration that I cannot stand. And before anyone gets up in arms, I will readily admit that I voted for him (twice!). By the end of his time in office, I was no longer a fan. I was ready for something different. But I will be the first to say that there are several things about Bush that I admire. I do believe that he is a good man, a President who strongly believed that what he was doing was best for his people. Lest you forget, he presided over the worst terrorist attack on American soil. And in those days after September 11th, we all - Republicans and Democrats and Independents and others - stood together in solidarity as we watched our president speak to the nation. But for me, what I appreciated most about Bush was that he wasn't just a conservative, he was a compassionate conservative. Bush presided over the biggest and most radical spending on HIV/AIDS prevention and medication in our history (targeted toward Africa and the Caribbean). I think that much of his brand of conservatism was derailed by 9/11 and lost somewhere in the great war machine...but I also would dare to guess (based on Bush's rhetoric surrounding the wars) that even his decisions in that arena were somewhat motivated by the ideals surrounding this political view - ideals of freedom and justice. I do not believe it was done right, and I certainly believe that many failures of those wars can be blamed at least in part on other aspects of the administration (including faulty intelligence). But I digress...

Back to Perry and his repudiation of compassionate conservatism. As a moderate (or even sometimes liberal) Christian, I can get behind conservatism on some levels. But I also spent many years living in a socialist country (gasp! socialism?!). I believe that socialism is far from a perfect system, but I also believe that as a Christian, it is at least a step closer to what the Bible describes of Christ's followers in the first church. I believe in helping those less fortunate- through our churches and our nonprofits and yes, our government. Is it a flawed system? Absolutely. But because it is flawed, does that mean we stop trying? Absolutely not. And so I cannot get behind Perry, or any other Republican who seeks to make the federal government inconsequential. Would I rather get a bigger paycheck every two weeks because I am paying less taxes? Of course. Would I rather that the taxes that I do pay go toward items of significance, not an astronomical debt, bureaucratic drivel and unending wars? Naturally. Do I believe that huge changes need to be made in how our federal government operates? Yes. But I am not willing to sacrifice the idea of compassion to accomplish all that. Call me an idealist, but I think we can hope for something better.

*Coming soon: I am working on a post about Women and Christianity. I've been working on it for a while, and have blogged about this before. So hopefully I'll get a bit of inspiration and will publish it soon to the blog!

3 comments:

Sheri said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Since I do not live in DC, the elections are still far away to me. You've made some excellent points and I look forward to reading more of them.

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Anonymous said...

Amy, I agree with much of what you said. Many Christians would say that caring for the poor, etc. should not be a function of the state. And I disagree. In the Old Testament, pagan nations are judged for treating their people unjustly. I'd don't necessarily ascribe to socialism, but I do think that the the government should play a role in helping the disadvantaged. Thanks for your thoughts! And I look forward to your post on women and Christianity! -- Amy Lauger